By DIANE CARDWELL, for The New York Times, October 17, 2014
When it comes to the future of advanced biofuel production, Abengoa Bioenergy, the Spanish company whose $500 million plant in Hugoton, Kan., is opening on Friday, has just one word: plastics.
For many of the companies opening big new biofuel plants in the Midwest, executives are already shifting their focus to replacing petroleum not only in the gas tank but elsewhere as well. In Abengoa’s case, a big target is plastic bottles.
“There really is a huge upside potential in the nonfuel side of the business,” said Chris Standlee, executive vice president of global affairs at the company. “Hugoton is the step that allows us to move on to some of these other things.”
Other companies are joining in. DuPont, which is developing a plant in Nevada, Iowa, recently announced that it had reached an agreement with Procter & Gamble to funnel some of its ethanol into Tide Cold Water laundry detergent.
And companies using other technologies are pursuing similar paths. Under an agreement with Unilever, for instance, Solazyme, which uses microalgae to produce oils, is making ingredients for Lux soaps.
The ethanol companies are still relying on the fuels business for much of their sales. Of the roughly 25 million gallons of ethanol Abengoa plans to produce from agricultural waste — mainly the nonedible parts of corn plants — it will most likely sell the bulk to California, where a low-carbon fuel mandate is creating a stronger market for clean fuels. Since its technology can also transform municipal solid waste to fuel, Mr. Standlee said, the company could also open plants outside of the heartland.
But ethanol demand is limited, and it has turned out to be much more complicated and expensive to develop biofuel from cellulosic biomass like plant residue, wood chips and municipal solid waste. So despite millions in government grants and tax subsidies, many companies that originally aimed to make renewable fuel are also looking to make products and chemicals for which they can reap a higher price.
Abengoa plans to pursue supplying plastic for bottles, something beverage companies have been seeking to help bolster their green credentials, Mr. Standlee said.
This direction poses a problem for the Department of Energy, whose aim was to ignite the development of clean fuels, said Wallace E. Tyner, a professor of agricultural economics at Purdue. But the energy market may not be ready.
“Today, if you want to build a plant economically, it doesn’t work unless you can get a decent amount of higher value product in the product stream,” he said. “You would hope that the companies who are investing in these plants are learning a lot. Some of them — many of them, maybe — are going to fail. But maybe some of them who are making higher value products will learn enough that they can more efficiently get some fuels out of it too.”
Ethanol operators have faced a shifting landscape in recent years. The market for ethanol to be used in vehicle fuels is already saturated, analysts say, and the industry is waiting on a long-delayed decision by the Environmental Protection Agency on whether to cut the amount required to be blended into the fuels by more than 40 percent. On top of this, technical challenges remain.
Still, major plants, representing hundreds of millions in investment, continue to come online. In addition to Abengoa’s opening, a joint venture between Poet, an ethanol producer, and Royal DSM, the Dutch life and materials sciences company, held its grand opening in Emmetsburg, Iowa, in September. Together, they are expected to produce about 50 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol a year — all generated from agricultural waste like corn cobs, husks and leaves, known as stover.
The uncertainty has forced ethanol producers like Abengoa to broaden their horizons.
DuPont is even looking overseas. On Thursday, it announced an agreement with Macedonia to develop a commercial-scale plant in partnership with Ethanol Europe, to produce about 25 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol a year.
“This is yet another example of the market’s readiness for cellulosic ethanol and the global interest,” the company said in a statement.
From Sustainable Development Announcement List of IISD.
London, UK, October 13, 2014
With less than a year to go until the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are agreed, the big question now is implementation. Specifically, how do we make the SDGs relevant to businesses as well as national and local level decision makers?
As part of the Measure What Matters initiative, we are bringing together statisticians from corporate reporting with national and international statistical bodies to explore how we align data frameworks at different scales (global, national, corporate, local).
Our first consultation is focused on WATER: How might global Goal(s) on water sustainability be operationalised at local, corporate and national levels? How do we ensure that the data frameworks are aligned?
If you are involved in water – then we want to hear from you! We need your expertise.
We will feed the results of this consultation directly into the implementation working groups for the SDGs, discussions at the national level on alternative GDP measurements, and consultations for strengthening corporate reporting.
The dialogue is available here. Please also see our one-page guidance note on taking part.
Measure What Matters is an initiative aiming to generate dialogue amongst diverse stakeholder groups on the case for operationalising global sustainability goals at the national and corporate levels. Please do see our website for more information. The initiative is led by the Green Economy Coalition in partnership with the Global Reporting Initiative, Accounting for Sustainability, the Stockholm Environment Institute, the International Institute for Environment and Development, and Stakeholder Forum.
IIED is a company limited by a guarantee and incorporated in England. Reg. No 2188452. Registered office: 80-86 Grays Inn Road, London WC1X 8NH, UK. VAT Reg. No. GB 440 4948 50. Charity No. 800066. OSCR No 039864 www.iied.org
Humanity at Crossroad : How to Shape a New Sustainable Development Trajectory.
On US Columbus Day, The Women’s International Forum at the United Nations in New York – WIF – took advantage of the slower ongoings at the UN and convened a meeting with the two Co-Chairs of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (OWG SDG) who toiled for a full year to produce an aspirational text that eventually was accepted by all UN Member States, and which now has to be fleshed out so there is also a financing agreement by the end of this General Assembly year – ready to go to the Paris Summit of November 30 to December 11, 2015.
The wife of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Ms. Ban Soon-taek is the Patron of WIF and the wife of the Ambassador from Thailand, Ms. Nareumon Sinhaseni is the current President of the Executive Board of WIF.
Today’s presentations by the two co-chairs was the best lay-out of the issues which encompass no less then the future of Humankind on earth. The presenters were:
H.E. Csaba Korosi – Ambassador of Hungary and H.E. Macharia Kamau – Ambassador of Kenya
The two Co-chairs of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (OWG SDG).
Ambassador Korosi spoke first and with the help of power-points provided an in-depth analysis of how the Working Group spent their time. Then Ambassador Kamau boiled the future we aspire to down to Three Words – AMBITIOUS, TRANSFORMATIVE and UNIVERSAL.
I will proceed by reporting this vision first, and pick up the mechanics later.
The targets and goals boil down to us an image of a world without poverty, without hunger everywhere, where diseases are under control, a truly inclusive society, equality for genders, businesses are responsible in their production methods and where animals are not seen as means for us but part of the ecosystem – and countries are equal as well.
Then he said he wants to imagine the standard in Manhattan as the norm for the SDGs. He challenged us to think of the conditions in the year 1960 and contemplate on how the world changed since then in travel, phones, medicines, how we moved away from the danger of a nuclear war. Then he suggested to flip this and ask why not continue this progress for the next 40 years as well, and spread the gains worldwide. That was the AMBITION part.
Now to TRANSFORMATIVE – this when we realize that after 3,000 years of civilization we still talk of gender equality. We need
a major change in the economic, social, and political structure of our lives.
It must be UNIVERSAL because those that progress was denied to them will come to claim their part. We do not talk anymore of charity towards the poor – that got us nowhere.
We must be held with our feet to the fire of accountability. This is not just about money. It is rather about holding ourselves accountable – he said. After what we achieved in preparing goals and targets we now have the span of time – January – September 2015, to come up with an AGENDA THAT IS ACCOUNTABLE. We have to overcome the people that do not see this – and bring them on board. He knows for a fact that we will succeed, and that collective effort will lead us to the future we all want.
Ambassador Korosi opened by telling us that we have now 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 Targets – all accepted by all of the UN body after a year of hard work that spread over 13 sessions. All this is ACTION ORIENTED AND ASPIRATIONAL IN NATURE. Let us round this up to 170 TARGETS.
Now we use the resources of 1.5 Earths – but we have only one. This year the Earth Overshoot Day was August 19. That was the day we started to borrow this year resources from the future generations. This date of the “Overshoot” moves back year-by-year so it shows our consumption of resources accelerates us with increasing speed towards the climate disaster. If we do not change our ways by 2030 we need then 50% more food and 35% more freshwater while nnually we loose agricultural land equal to half a Hungary or the size of a Belgium.
Since 1900 the world population tripled and available water per capita decreased from 12.000 m3 to 5.000. Urbanization that is now at 52% of the 7.5 Bn people today will reach 75% of the 8.5-9 Bn by 2050. Looking at the MDGs that were not achieved yet we find that 2.5 Bn people today still need electricity.
SD was defined in 1987 as Development to meet the present needs but that does not compromise the future. Now SD is seen as a bridge between the past, present, and future – all right – but it is between humans and nature, between politics and economics, between governments, civil society, and business, between the rich and poor, and between the North and South, and South and South. Sustainability is thus a hub of bridges and the SDGs are there to motivate the construction of these bridges.
We were presented the 17 SDGs and told that the 169 targets, global in nature as well, result from looking at local, national, regional needed actions. We attach the list of the 17 SDGs further down.
The concept is to turn the global aspirations into opportunities. We will need methods for data collection in order to build a supporting system for achieving the SDGs. We tried working on single goals and developed indicators for that purpose – but it did not work because all goals are interconnected. To support this, Amb. Korosi showed us a slide how the three Dimension of SD in the SDGs – the environmental, social, and economic, cut across all 17 SDGs and from goal to goal.
Among the lessons we learned from the work with MDGs is the need for a global Paradigm Change. The SD is a joint commitment to change in global trends – not limited to assistance to address some challenges in a group of countries – we are really all in the muck – together.
Implementation will be on national / regional / local levels with political commitment, national responsibility, supporting international cooperation – resulting in 193 different ways of implementation that result from the fact that there are now 193 Member States at the UN – but also involving the cooperation of stake-holders – a term that allows windows for Civil Society, business, and we assume also factors that have only outside relationship to the UN like the indigenous peoples’ Nations, or countries that are not Members of the UN. Cities and urbanization, as well as communities and sub-national States, come under the Local level while regional includes neighboring Nations.
Here we get to the issue of money and the speaker said that the global savings stand at 22 trillion with the value of assets reaching 230 trillion – so – in honesty – the 2-5 trillion needed as investment in the SDGs ought not to be a problem considering the vast amount of good these investments will provide. The problem is thus not money but accountability.
The home stretch of the follow up to the agreed-upon text, what the speaker called THE WAY AHEAD, includes the following steps:
- A Synthesis Report by the Secretary-General to be ready December 2014 followed by Intergovernmental negotiations – January to September 2015.
- The all important Summit on Financing SD to be held in Addis Abeba, July 2015
- The Summit on post-2015 agenda that is timed with the General Assembly 2015 meeting in September 2015 at UN New York Hqtrs.
- The target meeting in Paris, December 2015 of the make or brake Climate Summit 2015.
The speaker pointed out that a failure in any one of these steps is simply unaffordable.
The presenters were introduced to the members of WIF:
“Elected by acclamation by members of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goal (OWG SDG) as Co-Chairs of the OWG on SDGs on the first day of the first session of the OWG on SDGs on 14 March 2013, Ambassador Csaba Korosi, PR of Hungary, and Ambassador Macharia Kamau, PR of Kenya, had, in fact, been highly involved in the issue of Sustainable Development since they were the co facilitators for the preparations of the first session of the OWG.
Upon their election, PGA Vuk Jeremic remarked that “process of formulating the SDGs will undoubtedly be a complicated one, requiring great diplomatic skills”.
Thirteen sessions of OWG from March 2013 to July 2014, 17 goals and 169 targets adopted by the OWG by acclamation, as well as the adoption of the Report of the OWG by UNGA 68, are clear evidence of the diplomatic skills of the Co-chairs. Proposing SDGs that are action oriented, concise and easy to communicate, limited in number, aspirational, global in nature and applicable to all countries. All the while ensuring that the intergovernmental process is transparent and inclusive to all stakeholders.
The two Co-chairs presented to WIF the process and results of their more than a year of hard work.
WIF members heard that of the 17 goals agreed upon, goal Five is devoted to “Achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls” If this particular goal and its targets are faithfully integrated into the Post 2015 Development Agenda, it will be a real “game changer” towards the effective protection of women’s rights throughout the world.”
1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.
3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages
4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all
5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all
8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable
12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat
desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and biodiversity loss
16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build
effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.
Much further information was provided in the lively follow up discussion with the WIF ladies.
We know about the relationship between Global Warming and the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere already since 1896 from the studies by Svante Arrhenius of Sweden who also thought of human induced increase of the gas concentration in air. It took 60 years to think of the need of an international agreement, and now 120 years since Arhenius we are still on the wrong trajectory.
So knowledge is not enough. Governments did not act because their interest is in the yearly budget, or the time period of their rule – so long term projects that we must be facing now had no chance until the problem became larger.
On a question from Peru if the number of SDGs was not too large – after all – “END POVERTY” would have been enough – the answer came that 250 SDGs were proposed and it was a long discussion that brought them down to 17.
The question of youth came up and the Ambassador from Kenya answered that actually we have only one SDG and that is for a Sustainable World that we can hand down to our children – so it is really not necessary to mention the youth because it is about ONE WORLD.
While the 2014 COP20 (2014) conference of the UNFCCC at Lima, Peru, is the next in the annual series, Ban Ki-moon has directed more attention toward the COP21, 2015 conference in Paris. A statement made by Ban Ki-moon called for the climate change summit he held on September 22, 2014 in New York, to lead to the Paris conference, but made no reference to the 2014 conference in Lima.
According to the organizing committee, the objective of the 2015 conference is to achieve, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, a binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world. This is part of the
package that includes the fulfillment of the MDGs and the establishing of the new SDGs
I found interesting that Ms. Ban was taking notes at the meeting of the WIF – I wonder if this was followed up by a direct report at the dinner table?
Reducing Carbon Emissions Would Fuel Global Economy.
By Anastasia Pantsios, EcoWatch
11 October 14
Evidence is amassing to discredit those middle-ground politicians who say they think climate change is real but don’t think we should address it because of the steep economic costs.
Two reports issued today by the Climate Policy Institute add to the growing pile of studies showing that moving to clean-energy, low-carbon policies that help mitigate the effects of climate change could actually provide fuel for the economy.
They found that moving to such policies could save the global economy trillions of dollars in the next two decades to invest in economic growth. The reports were commissioned by the New Climate Economy project as part of the research conducted for the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.
“For policymakers around the world wondering whether the transition to a low-carbon economy will help or hurt their countries’ ability to invest for growth, our analysis clearly demonstrates that, for many, the low-carbon transition is a no-brainer,” said Climate Policy Initiative’s executive director Tom Heller. “It not only reduces climate risks, its benefits are clear and significant.”
“Moving to a Low Carbon Economy: The Financial Impact of the Low-Carbon Transition” juxtaposes the costs of low-carbon electricity and low-carbon transportation system with the costs of the current system. “Moving to a Low Carbon Economy: The Impact of Different Policy Pathways on Fossil Fuel Asset Values” looks at the risk and extent of existing fossil fuel assets’ loss of value (aka asset-stranding), which would limit governments and businesses’ ability to borrow against them to finance growth and investment, including investment in a clean energy technologies.
The reports came to a number of conclusions about the positive economic impacts of shifting to policies that favor clean, renewable energy. They found that since governments worldwide and not private companies control 50-70 percent of oil, gas and coal resources, they also have the power to shape policies that can lead to savings or to asset-stranding. They also concluded that the savings in operational costs from renewable energy as opposed to fossil-fuel energy far outweighs the value of the stranded assets. And they assert that transitioning away from coal would provide the greatest benefits in emissions reductions with the least loss in value.
They also urge reducing the cost of financing renewable energy plants to lower the cost of transition worldwide, implementing a planning approach that includes taxes and innovation, and using gas as a bridge fuel in some regions—particularly China and India—until 2030 but saying gas use would have to decrease after that.
“Our analysis reveals that with the right policy choices, over the next twenty years governments can achieve the emissions reductions necessary for a safer, more stable climate and free up trillions for investment in other parts of the economy,” said Climate Policy Initiative’s senior director David Nelson. “This is even before taking into account the environmental and health benefits of reducing emissions.”
From The Washington Post
It’s all about what’s next • Sat., Oct. 11, 2014
5 insights from Vint Cerf on bitcoin, net neutrality and more
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Why it matters that Microsoft is channeling the Star Trek holodeck
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Jeff Pulver opens up on Silicon Valley’s scorn for old entrepreneurs, and why every start-up needs a lead singer
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America can’t lead the world in innovation if the FAA keeps dragging its feet on drone rules
As the latest revolutionary digital technology takes off, entrepreneurs are finding themselves battling federal regulators for permission just to experiment with new applications. This time, it’s not the FCC (smartphone apps), the FTC (the Internet of Things), the FDA (genetic testing), the Department of Transportation (driverless cars), the Federal Reserve (bitcoin), state and local utility […]
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The dominoes are falling in Silicon Valley: technology companies releasing their diversity data, apologizing for the sins of the past, and promising to do better. I know from my meetings with executives of Google and Facebook that they are dead serious; that this isn’t just a marketing campaign. They are looking into the sources of […]
Jenan Moussa is a reporter for the Arabic language TV network Akhbar AlAan out of Dubai.
For the past 48 hours she has been witnessing the battle raging in the Kurdish town of Kobane, just south of Turkey’s border with Syria.
At 07:00 EST she tweeted, “ISIS did not manage to enter Kobane yet, Kurdish activist Mustafa Bali just told me over phone.
He is still in Kobane. @Akhbar”
An hour later, she was the first to report: “I can confirm. I just saw an ISIS flag. It is flying on eastern edge of Kobane. Will try to tweet a pic in a sec.”
As fighting raged, news came of the desperate situation of the Kurds.
One female fighter reportedly charged the advancing ISIS jihadists, hurling grenades at them and then blew herself up in their midst. Another reportedly shot herself rather than be captured by ISIS when she ran out of ammunition.
Moussa’s tweets from one of her Kurdish contacts from inside Kobane conveyed the sense of betrayal the Kurds felt because of the lack of American help. She tweeted: “Kurdish guy from#Kobane tells me: We hoped American planes will help us. Instead American tanks in hands of ISIS are killing us.”
The US betrayal of the Turks is evident for decades – as the US is busy courting Muslim Arabia and no US President to-date has helped the only Muslim Nationality that is trying to emerge from this regressive Arab World that is advancing back into the dark ages in human development. This only Nationality are the Kurds -whose lands were carved up by the British and given to Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. The fate of the Kurds is worse then that of the Armenians – and an ongoing example of what the Israeli Jews could expect from their Middle East neighbors as well.
THE NEW YORK TIMES – The Opinion Pages | Editorial
Mr. Erdogan’s Dangerous Game: Turkey’s Refusal to Fight ISIS Hurts the Kurds.
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD October 8, 2014
Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, once aspired to lead the Muslim world. At this time of regional crisis, he has been anything but a leader. Turkish troops and tanks have been standing passively behind a chicken-wire border fence while a mile away in Syria, Islamic extremists are besieging the town of Kobani and its Kurdish population.
This is an indictment of Mr. Erdogan and his cynical political calculations. By keeping his forces on the sidelines and refusing to help in other ways — like allowing Kurdish fighters to pass through Turkey — he seeks not only to weaken the Kurds, but also, in a test of will with President Obama, to force the United States to help him oust President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, whom he detests.
It is also evidence of the confusion and internal tensions that affect Mr. Obama’s work-in-progress strategy to degrade and defeat the Islamic State, the Sunni Muslim extremist group also called ISIS or ISIL. Kurdish fighters in Kobani have been struggling for weeks to repel the Islamic State. To help, the Americans stepped up airstrikes that began to push the ISIS fighters back, although gun battles and explosions continued on Wednesday.
But all sides — the Americans, Mr. Erdogan and the Kurds — agree that ground forces are necessary to capitalize on the air power. No dice, says Mr. Erdogan, unless the United States provides more support to rebels trying to overthrow Mr. Assad and creates a no-fly zone to deter the Syrian Air Force as well as a buffer zone along the Turkish border to shelter thousands of Syrian refugees who have fled the fighting.
No one can deny Mr. Assad’s brutality in the civil war, but Mr. Obama has rightly resisted involvement in that war and has insisted that the focus should be on degrading ISIS, not going after the Syrian leader. The biggest risk in his decision to attack ISIS in Syria from the air is that it could put America on a slippery slope to a war that he has otherwise sought to avoid.
Mr. Erdogan’s behavior is hardly worthy of a NATO ally. He was so eager to oust Mr. Assad that he enabled ISIS and other militants by allowing fighters, weapons and revenues to flow through Turkey. If Mr. Erdogan refuses to defend Kobani and seriously join the fight against the Islamic State, he will further enable a savage terrorist group and ensure a poisonous long-term instability on his border.
He has also complicated his standing at home. His hesitation in helping the Syrian Kurds has enraged Turkey’s Kurdish minority, which staged protests against the Turkish government on Wednesday that reportedly led to the deaths of 21 people. Mr. Erdogan fears that defending Kobani would strengthen the Syrian Kurds, who have won de facto control of many border areas as they seek autonomy much like their Kurdish brethren in Iraq. But if Kobani falls, Kurdish fury will undoubtedly grow.
The Americans have been trying hard to resolve differences with Mr. Erdogan in recent days, but these large gaps are deeply threatening to the 50-plus-nation coalition that the United States has assembled. One has to wonder why such a profound dispute was not worked out before Mr. Obama took action in Syria.
What Washington Does not Want to See Even in September 2014 was known to those with sight already in 2001 – The USA Has No Arab Friends or Even True Arab Allies in the Middle East. President Obama does see this, but seemingly tries also to ignore reality in order to avoid a consistently open oil trap.
It does not amuse us to find 2001 references that point to a total lack of understanding in Washington of events in the Middle East – on the meaning of the entanglement of the Saudi Royal family and Wahhabi Islam. It gets worse when we find direct 2001 references to Iraq and Syria under their 2001 ruling despots, as the beginning of the process that leads to what the present revolutionary force calls the Islamic State. Let us just say kindly that the US helped the Saudi Wahhabis fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, but then the US just allowed the Taliban to take over and open the land to Bin Ladin whose shadow continues the fight he initiated by bringing it back closer to the Arabian Peninsula. Washington 2014 seems not to realize the meaning of these forces that it discovered only in New York in 2001.
“TWO QUESTIONS have been raised about Osama bin Laden. First, if bin Laden opposes the Saudi regime, why has he never struck Saudi targets? Second, if he threatens Saudi Arabia, why has the Saudi government taken the lead in recognizing and funding the Taliban government of Afghanistan, which is entwined with bin Laden’s al Qaeda organization? The answer is: The bin Laden problem is deeply embedded both in Saudi religious and dynastic politics and in an effort by Iraq and Syria to shift the balance of power in the Middle East.”
The Above is from:
“The Saudi Connection: Osama bin Laden’s a lot closer to the Saudi royal family than you think.”
Oct 29, 2001, YJE WEEKLY STANDARD, Vol. 7, No. 07 • By DAVID WURMSER
The 2001 articles talk of -
“The Saudi Connection – Osama bin Laden’s a lot closer to the Saudi royal family than you think.”
Oct 29, 2001, The Weekly Standard, Vol. 7, No. 07 • By DAVID WURMSER
TWO QUESTIONS have been raised about Osama bin Laden. First, if bin Laden opposes the Saudi regime, why has he never struck Saudi targets? Second, if he threatens Saudi Arabia, why has the Saudi government taken the lead in recognizing and funding the Taliban government of Afghanistan, which is entwined with bin Laden’s al Qaeda organization? The answer is: The bin Laden problem is deeply embedded both in Saudi religious and dynastic politics and in an effort by Iraq and Syria to shift the balance of power in the Middle East.
To begin to unravel this murky business, it is necessary to go back to the mid 1990s, when a succession struggle was beginning in Saudi Arabia. This struggle pits the octogenarian king, Fahd bin Abdel-Aziz, and his full brothers in the Sudairi branch of the family (especially the defense minister, Prince Sultan) against their half-brother, Crown Prince Abdallah. King Fahd and the Sudairis favor close ties to the United States, while Crown Prince Abdallah prefers Syria and is generally more enamored of pan-Islamic and pan-Arab ideas. All of these contenders are old. Whoever succeeds in securing the crown after Fahd will anoint the next generation of royal heirs and determine Saudi Arabia’s future course–either toward the West or toward Syria, Iraq, and others who challenge the position of the United States in the region.
Abdallah is closely allied with the puritanical Wahhabi religious establishment that has underpinned the Saudi government for over a century. The Wahhabis are strident and hostile to a continued American presence in the Middle East. They made this explicit in 1990 in a pronouncement known as the Muzkara an-Nasiha, originated by Osama bin Laden and signed by virtually every sheikh in the Wahhabi establishment. It condemned Saudi Arabia’s decision to allow U.S. troops into the kingdom for the purpose of resisting Saddam.
Saudi Friends, Saudi Foes – Is our Arab ally part of the problem?
Oct 8, 2001, THE WEEKLY STANDARD, Vol. 7, No. 04 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
THE EXTRAORDINARY ACT of destruction seen on September 11 had a noteworthy harbinger in Islamic history. In 1925, Ibn Saud, founder of the present Saudi Arabian dynasty, ordered the wholesale destruction of the sacred tombs, graveyards, and mosques in Mecca and Medina. These are, of course, the two holy cities of Islam, whose sanctity the Saudi exile Osama bin Laden and other Islamist extremists ostensibly seek to protect from the defiling presence of U.S. troops on Saudi soil.
Saud’s armed supporters, in a frenzy of iconoclasm, first leveled Jannat al-Baqi, the “heavenly orchard” in Medina, where one of the original associates of Muhammad was buried under the prophet’s supervision. Other relatives and thousands of early companions of the prophet were also interred at the site, as were the imams Hassan and Hussein, venerated by Sunni and Shia Muslims. All these graves were wrecked by Saud’s minions, who then looted the treasure at the prophet’s shrine.
The Saud party went on to demolish the cemetery in Mecca where the prophet’s mother, grandfather, and first wife, Khadijah, were buried; then to smash many more honored sites, devastating the architectural achievements of Arabia, including mosques and even Muhammad’s house. Only the tomb of the prophet was spared, after an outcry from traditional Muslims.
This spree of vandalism was accompanied by wholesale massacres of Muslims suspected of rejecting Wahhabism, a fanatical strain of Islam that emerged in Arabia in the eighteenth century and has periodically disturbed the Muslim world. In the nineteenth century, it fueled the Arab nationalist challenge to the tolerant and easygoing Ottoman Empire; and it became, and remains today, the state-sanctioned doctrine of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, founded in 1932.
These events of 75 years ago aid in understanding the violence of bin Laden and other Islamic terrorists, who (since the waning of atheist leftism as a motivating ideology) are all Wahhabis. A direct line extends from the demolition of the holy places in Medina and Mecca through the slaughter of 58 tourists in Egypt in 1997, the orgy of killing in Algeria in this decade, and the bombardment of the Buddhist statues at Bamyan by the Taliban only months ago to the assault on the World Trade Center, symbol of Western wealth and power. In all these cases, unrestrained destruction and bloodshed were justified by Wahhabi doctrine.
Wahhabis, who regard the veneration of the prophet and of saints as a polytheistic corruption of Islam, are offended by the honoring of tombs and shrines, along with many other traditional Muslim practices. Observance of the prophet’s birthday, for example, is illegal in Saudi Arabia, although lately Prince Abdullah has introduced a novel concession: Observances in private homes will no longer be subject to suppression by the religious police.
Wahhabism’s bloodstained record explains why so many Muslims around the world fear and hate Islamic fundamentalism—and why certain marginal types are drawn to it. As an acquaintance of mine put it, in Muslim Morocco, the footloose young sons of the lower middle class and proletariat can take one of three paths. They may adopt Western ways, drink and acquire girlfriends, and be envied. They may take up the life of an ordinary observant Muslim and be respected. Or they may join the Wahhabis—funded by the Saudis and organized by such as bin Laden—and be feared.
This is the most important point for Western leaders to understand right now: The West has multitudes of potential Muslim allies in the anti-terror war. They are the ordinary, sane inhabitants of every Muslim nation, who detest the fundamentalist violence from which they have suffered and which is symbolized, now and forever, by the mass murder in New York.
There is another historical lesson to be drawn. Wahhabism—whose quintessence is war on America—seeks to impel Islam centuries back in time, to the faith’s beginnings, yet it is neither ancient nor traditional. Indeed, it achieved its culmination, the establishment of the Saudi kingdom, only in the 1930s, in parallel with fascism and Stalinism.
Although it appears to be a rejection of modernity, Wahhabism can usefully be thought of as a variant of the nihilistic revolutionary ideologies that spilled oceans of blood in the twentieth century but finally collapsed—truly, the discredited lies consigned to history’s graveyard of which President Bush spoke.
(MENAFN – AFP) Global oil prices fell Friday, with the US contract hitting a 17-month low amid ample supplies on the market and the dollar strengthening following a positive US jobs report.
The US benchmark futures contract, West Texas Intermediate for November delivery, closed at 89.74 a barrel, down 1.27 from Thursday. It was the first time WTI closed below 90 since April 2013.
Brent North Sea crude for November, the main European contract, slumped 1.11 to $92.31 a barrel, its lowest close since June 2012.
The positive US jobs report, generally considered a sign of health in the world’s largest crude-oil consumer, was not powerful enough to lift the market.
The Labor Department reported Friday that the US economy added 248,000 jobs in September and revised higher job gains in previous months, pushing the unemployment rate down to a six-year low of 5.9 percent.
The unemployment number was “very strong,” said Carl Larry of Oil Outlooks and Opinion, “but for now, the big picture for the oil prices is the situation of supply, of oversupply, not in the US but everywhere else in the world.”
Oil production in the United States is booming, thanks to oil shale extraction, and exports are on the upswing in Russia, Libya and Kurdistan. Key exporter Saudi Arabia also cut oil prices for the fourth straight month this week to defend its market share.
In the third quarter of 2014, both Brent and New York oil prices have shed approximately 15 percent of their value on generous supplies and slowing consumption growth.
Oil prices have also been under pressure from a rising dollar, which hit a fresh four-year high against the euro on Friday helped by the jobs report.
The dollar firmed to 1.2501 against the euro, a level last seen in late August 2012, and remained close to a six-year high against the yen.
A stronger greenback makes dollar-priced commodities more expensive for buyers using weaker currencies, which tends to dent demand and push prices lower.
Wednesday October 1, 2014, after all those UN Member States’ Heads have left New York, the UN was still closed to the NGOs – supposedly for security reasons – the guards say this will hold on until next week – so it will be three weeks without “Civil Society” at the UN except for the handful handpicked by the UN itself. So much if you had any illusion that the UNSG hullabaloo about the enlargement of his entourage to include Civil Society in his deliberations was intended to lead to the new post-2015 world. Oh yes – we posted the harmless poem that was touted as the Civil Society contribution to the deliberations by that handful of participants.
Now we find that Grist publishes the analyses of the pure fact that the UN can in effect not aim at true results, and that it can only at best paint fake blue onto a heavy clouded sky – so please just know that you are being had and understand the reasons why. But also do not give up to despair – this because you are right in what you are fighting for and can rxpect that the truth will break through because it does make even economic sense. If allowed in some countries it will lead to alliances of States so it spreads eventually outside the UN that at best could then be used to bless the results.
Grist Daily posed 2014,today, October 14 2014, the question – “Is there any hope for international climate talks?”
A binding international treaty with firm emission limits just isn’t happening. Now attention is turning to a bottom-up, “pledge and review” strategy. Can it work?
By David Roberts
I don’t write very often about international climate talks because it’s super-depressing and nothing ever changes. Which I guess characterizes most things I write about, but something about climate talks in particular really drains the spirit. Nonetheless! Let’s take a fresh look at the landscape.
The original idea behind the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) talks was simple. Climate change is a classic tragedy of the commons. When emitting greenhouse gases, a country gets all the economic benefit but only a tiny fraction of the harm; conversely, when mitigating emissions, a country pays all the cost but receives only a tiny fraction of the benefit. I wrote about this in a recent post and Harvard’s Robert Stavins sums it up nicely in a recent op-ed:
“Greenhouse gases mix globally in the atmosphere, and so damages are spread around the world, regardless of where the gases were emitted. Thus, any country taking action incurs the costs, but the benefits are distributed globally. This presents a classic free-rider problem: It is in the economic self-interest of virtually no country to take unilateral action, and each can reap the benefits of any countries that do act. This is why international cooperation is essential.”
This has always been the logic of UNFCCC talks: burden sharing. Determine the proper way to distribute the load, and then sign a binding treaty to insure that all countries do their appointed part.
The same logic that yields the need for international cooperation, however, has made it virtually impossible to achieve in practice. Turns out national governments don’t like burdens! So the dispute over how to properly divide the burden between developed and developing countries has been as endless as it has been intractable. Early on in the UNFCCC process, developing countries like China and India were effectively exempted from the obligation to reduce emissions. What the U.S. and Europe have wanted ever since is to ditch the (arguably outmoded) developed vs. developing dichotomy, acknowledge that China et al. are going to be major sources of emissions growth this century, and sign a treaty in which all countries, including China, commit to binding targets. China disagrees, as do India and all the other countries that have so far escaped targets.
The result has been stalemate. And despite feverish hopes in the run-up to each new meeting (“last chance!”), nothing has happened to dislodge that dynamic. Yet the 2015 climate negotiations in Paris are supposed to be all about a “binding treaty.” What to do?
In many quarters, a comprehensive, binding treaty with national and global carbon targets is the holy grail. But its pursuit has led to nothing but a cycle of high hopes and crushing disappointment. There is very little hope of such a treaty in Paris, or maybe ever. What’s more, the focus on burden sharing has made the meetings a defensive, angst-ridden affair, everyone blaming everyone else while trying to minimize their own responsibility.
Most of the world’s major emitters agree that collective action on climate change is badly needed. Yet the meetings meant to facilitate such action produced little of it. Something had to change.
The idea that’s gained traction since the 2009 talks in Copenhagen is that it’s time to abandon the “burden sharing” frame altogether, give up on a binding treaty, and shift to a regime known as “pledge and review,” in which countries pledge specific policies and reductions and agree to have those policies and reductions internationally verified. Rather than being forced to accept a target, every country is simply asked to put on record what it is willing to contribute. Peer pressure and economic competition are supposed to do the rest. This is more or less what came out of Copenhagen, and Durban in 2011, and what will likely come out of Paris in 2015.
Those pledges are unlikely to add up to what’s needed to avoid 2 degrees C of warming, the stated international goal, any time soon. An outfit called Climate Interactive is tracking the pledges and adding them up; so far, they leave us on a path to exceed 4 degrees, which would be a disaster. But as John Podesta told Jeff Goodell (in the latter’s must-read story on China and climate), “If we wait until we have a binding international agreement that actually puts us on track for 2 C, we’ll hit 2 C before we get an agreement. But we have to get started if we hope to get to the destination.” Fred Pearce has a nice rundown of this general line of thinking here. It also finds clear expression in a recent op-ed from retired senators Tim Wirth and Tom Daschle.
Wirth has been working in and around international climate talks for as long as they’ve been going on. When I talked to him about pledge-and-review, he grew most animated when discussing the sheer torpor of the UNFCCC talks. “Everybody’s so depressed by the whole thing,” he said. “It’s a problem, it really is. They need a shot of energy! They need some enthusiasm! They need a new framework! Any time you run into a political dead end, you gotta change the rules. This is a way of changing the rules.”
Wirth says pledge-and-review has a chance of working because the economics have shifted and clean energy investment is increasingly in countries’ self-interest. He cites the recent New Climate Economy research project led by Nicholas Stern. Nations competing to outdo each other in these vast new markets could spark a “race to the top,” a sense of energy and progress that has been sorely missing. “We’re not saying we’re in the best of all possible worlds, by any means,” Wirth said, “but if we do it relatively soon, it’s going to end up being in everyone’s best interests.”
Wirth has a close eye on this November’s APEC meetings, where Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping are likely to discuss climate change (among other things). A substantial bilateral agreement on climate would bring momentum into Paris, giving, Wirth laughed, “the U.S. a chance to hide behind China’s skirts and China a chance to hide behind the U.S.’s skirts. That’s important politically.” The U.S. and China being the world’s two largest markets, other countries would be pulled along. “The U.S./China relationship is so much more important than anything else in the world,” Wirth said.
Whatever the prospects of a race to the top, there remains the question of climate justice — what to do about those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, who did little to cause the problem. Wirth points to the Green Climate Fund, which is supposed to transfer money from the developed to the developing world. But the nature of those funds is in hot dispute. In their piece, Wirth and Daschle write:
Finance is the final key to a global deal. At Copenhagen in 2009, the United States memorably pledged that developed countries would mobilize $100 billion a year in climate change assistance for the rest of the world by 2020. At a time of fiscal retrenchment in the West, the chance of that pledge being met in the form of additional development assistance is approximately zero. The pledge is eminently achievable, however, in the context of global energy investment, which has an annual flow a dozen times as large as the amount pledged in Copenhagen.
And when I talked to Wirth, that’s what he emphasized: opportunities to channel private investment money to developing countries. It appears that the climate fund is primarily going to consist in such investments.
But where does this leave the world’s poorest countries and low-lying islands? There’s a lot of adaptation to be done in those areas and not all of it is going to be a profit opportunity. Will the fund end up being just another instance of what Naomi Klein calls “disaster capitalism,” wherein wealthy westerners descend on countries reeling from misfortune and treat them as business opportunities to exploit?
The reason climate-justice advocates have always relied on the UNFCCC framework is that it’s the only venue in which the claims of vulnerable nations are guaranteed a hearing. If the meetings become nothing more than a forum for mutually advantageous bilateral and multilateral dealmaking, where is the pressure to do right by the vulnerable, much less any kind of guarantee?
I’ve never heard a good answer to that question. I sure don’t have one. But we return again to an ineluctable fact: The chances of the U.S. Senate ratifying a binding climate treaty are nil. The chances of it ratifying one that is also supported unanimously by all 195 or so countries of the UNFCCC are even niller. So what else is there to do?
“The building blocks approach, bottom up, is the only way to go,” says Wirth. “We’re not going to get a top-down agreement. So you gotta go the other direction.”
Our original posting date was September 25, 2011, and we do this re-posting because we were just reminded of the article by a comment I received from India from seemingly a non-political person. We wonder ourselves if that article is still relevant after this week’s events at the UN, and on the eve of a new meeting today in Washington between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu.
MENAFN – stands for Middle East North Africa – read ARAB Financial Network – it is a Delaware-based corporation with a wholly owned subsidiary in Amman, Jordan.
So, it must be an American Oil Industry enterprise, probably close to the Republican party, with a Jordanian address as well.
The site [www.menafn.com] offers regional and global business content in both Arabic and English. It attracts over 340,000 highly targeted visitors on a regular basis.
It has a weekly e-Newsletter that reaches 55,000 subscribers. It summarizes major business news and events, market data and research for the Middle East region and the globe.
We hope that our readers in the Arab world see this posting of ours on www.SustainabiliTank.info so they understand the depth of the hole their leaders have dug for the Arab world. There is no way to bitch about Israel – if you are not ready to acknowledge the Israelis that try to find a way to peace. You will not have peace if you do not recognize Israel.
If some business interest thinks they can profit from the state of war the time has come that the Arab World distances itself from them.
BUT THE ARTICLE IS AS FOLLOWS – AND WE GOT IT FROM URI AVNERY HIMSELF.
WHY DID MENAFN NOT POST THAT ARTICLE AS ORIGINALLY POSTED? - THEY TOOK IT VERBATIM FROM AVNERY AND DID NOT MENTION HIM – NEITHER DID THEY SAY THAT AVNERY, – OR AT LEAST “THE WRITER” – IS AN ISRAELI. THIS SHORTCOMING POSES BIG QUESTION ON THE CREDIBILITY OF THIS MENA – MIDDLE EAST NORTH AFRICA – READ ARAB – FINANCIAL REPORT.
THIS REMINDS US OF THE ARAB SPRING, TAHRIR SQUARE, LEADER WHOM I ASKED IN VIENNA, BEFORE AN AUDIENCE - IF AN ISRAELI LIKE URI AVNERY APPROACHES YOU WOULD YOU OUTSTRETCH YOUR HAND IN PEACE? SHE ANSWERED FLATLY – “NO! HE IS A ZIONIST.”
THIS IS THE REAL DOWNFALL OF THE ARAB WORLD – AND IN NO WAY CAN I HAVE SYMPATHY FOR SUCH HYPOCRASY.
WHY DID NOT THIS MENAFN ACKNOWLEDGE URI AVNERY? WHY DID THEY NOT HAVE THE GUTS TO SAY – WELCOME ABOARD – HERE YOU ARE THE ISRAELI WE WANT TO TALK TO. IN THE LIGHT OF THIS LACK OF HONESTY AND LACK OF COURAGE - I THINJK NOW THAT URI AVNERY HAS INDEED GOOD REASON TO RETHINK HIS NOBLE VIEWS.
September 24, 2011
Abu Mazen’s Gamble
A WONDERFUL SPEECH. A beautiful speech.
The language expressive and elegant. The arguments clear and convincing. The delivery flawless.
A work of art. The art of hypocrisy. Almost every statement in the passage concerning the Israeli-Palestinian issue was a lie. A blatant lie: the speaker knew it was a lie, and so did the audience.
It was Obama at his best, Obama at his worst.
Being a moral person, he must have felt the urge to vomit. Being a pragmatic person, he knew that he had to do it, if he wanted to be re-elected.
In essence, he sold the fundamental national interests of the United States of America for the chance of a second term.
Not very nice, but that’s politics, OK?
IT MAY be superfluous – almost insulting to the reader – to point out the mendacious details of this rhetorical edifice.
Obama treated the two sides as if they were equal in strength – Israelis and Palestinians, Palestinians and Israelis.
But of the two, it is the Israelis – only they – who suffer and have suffered. Persecution. Exile. Holocaust. An Israeli child threatened by rockets. Surrounded by the hatred of Arab children. So sad.
No Occupation. No settlements. No June 1967 borders. No Naqba. No Palestinian children killed or frightened. It’s the straight right-wing Israeli propaganda line, pure and simple – the terminology, the historical narrative, the argumentation. The music.
The Palestinians, of course, should have a state of their own. Sure, sure. But they must not be pushy. They must not embarrass the US. They must not come to the UN. They must sit with the Israelis, like reasonable people, and work it out with them. The reasonable sheep must sit down with the reasonable wolf and decide what to have for dinner. Foreigners should not interfere.
Obama gave full service. A lady who provides this kind of service generally gets paid in advance. Obama got paid immediately afterwards, within the hour. Netanyahu sat down with him in front of the cameras and gave him enough quotable professions of love and gratitude to last for several election campaigns.
THE TRAGIC hero of this affair is Mahmoud Abbas. A tragic hero, but a hero nonetheless.
Many people may be surprised by this sudden emergence of Abbas as a daring player for high stakes, ready to confront the mighty US.
If Ariel Sharon were to wake up for a moment from his years-long coma, he would faint with amazement. It was he who called Mahmoud Abbas “a plucked chicken”.
Yet for the last few days, Abbas was the center of global attention. World leaders conferred about how to handle him, senior diplomats were eager to convince him of this or that course of action, commentators were guessing what he would do next. His speech before the UN General Assembly was treated as an event of consequence.
Not bad for a chicken, even for one with a full set of feathers.
His emergence as a leader on the world stage is somewhat reminiscent of Anwar Sadat.
When Gamal Abd-al-Nasser unexpectedly died at the age of 52 in 1970 and his official deputy, Sadat, assumed his mantle, all political experts shrugged.
Sadat? Who the hell is that? He was considered a nonentity, an eternal No. 2, one of the least important members of the group of “free officers” that was ruling Egypt.
In Egypt, a land of jokes and jokers, witticisms about him abounded. One concerned the prominent brown mark on his forehead. The official version was that it was the result of much praying, hitting the ground with his forehead. But the real reason, it was told, was that at meetings, after everyone else had spoken, Sadat would get up and try to say something. Nasser would good-naturedly put his finger to his forehead, push him gently down and say: “Sit, Anwar!”
To the utter amazement of the experts – and especially the Israeli ones – this “nonentity” took a huge gamble by starting the 1973 October War, and proceeded to do something unprecedented in history: going to the capital of an enemy country still officially in a state of war and making peace.
Abbas’ status under Yasser Arafat was not unlike Sadat’s under Nasser. However, Arafat never appointed a deputy. Abbas was one of a group of four or five likely successors. The heir would surely have been Abu Jihad, had he not been killed by Israeli commandoes in front of his wife and children. Another likely candidate, Abu Iyad, was killed by Palestinian terrorists. Abu Mazen (Abbas) was in a way the choice by default.
Such politicians, emerging suddenly from under the shadow of a great leader, generally fall into one of two categories: the eternal frustrated No. 2 or the surprising new leader.
The Bible gives us examples of both kinds. The first was Rehoboam, the son and heir of the great King Solomon, who told his people: “my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions”. The other kind was represented by Joshua, the heir of Moses. He was no second Moses, but according to the story a great conqueror in his own right.
Modern history tells the sad story of Anthony Eden, the long-suffering No. 2 of Winston Churchill, who commanded little respect. (Mussolini called him, after their first meeting, “a well-tailored idiot.”). Upon assuming power, he tried desperately to equal Churchill and soon embroiled Britain in the 1956 Suez disaster. To the second category belonged Harry Truman, the nobody who succeeded the great Franklin Delano Roosevelt and surprised everybody as a resolute leader.
Abbas looked like belonging to the first kind. Now, suddenly, he is revealed as belonging to the second. The world is treating him with newfound respect. Nearing the end of his career, he made the big gamble.
BUT WAS it wise? Courageous, yes. Daring, yes. But wise?
My answer is: Yes, it was.
Abbas has placed the quest for Palestinian freedom squarely on the international table. For more than a week, Palestine has been the center of international attention. Scores of international statesmen and -women, including the leader of the world’s only superpower, have been busy with Palestine.
For a national movement, that is of the utmost importance. Cynics may ask: “So what did they gain from it?” But cynics are fools. A liberation movement gains from the very fact that the world pays attention, that the media grapple with the problem, that people of conscience all over the world are aroused. It strengthens morale at home and brings the struggle a step nearer its goal.
Oppression shuns the limelight. Occupation, settlements, ethnic cleansing thrive in the shadows. It is the oppressed who need the light of day. Abbas’ move provided it, at least for the time being.
BARACK OBAMA’s miserable performance was a nail in the coffin of America’s status as a superpower. In a way, it was a crime against the United States.
The Arab Spring may have been a last chance for the US to recover its standing in the Middle East. After some hesitation, Obama realized that. He called on Mubarak to go, helped the Libyans against their tyrant, made some noises about Bashar al-Assad. He knows that he has to regain the respect of the Arab masses if he wants to recover some stature in the region, and by extension throughout the world.
Now he has blown it, perhaps forever. No self-respecting Arab will forgive him for plunging his knife into the back of the helpless Palestinians. All the credit the US has tried to gain in the last months in the Arab and the wider Muslim world has been blown away with one puff.
All for reelection.
IT WAS also a crime against Israel.
Israel needs peace. Israel needs to live side by side with the Palestinian people, within the Arab world. Israel cannot rely forever on the unconditional support of the declining United States.
Obama knows this full well. He knows what is good for Israel, even if Netanyahu doesn’t. Yet he has handed the keys of the car to the drunken driver.
The State of Palestine will come into being. This week it was already clear that this is unavoidable. Obama will be forgotten, as will Netanyahu, Lieberman and the whole bunch.
Mahmoud Abbas – Abu Mazen, as the Palestinians call him – will be remembered. The “plucked chicken” is soaring into the sky.
So what is the verdict on Climate Week, the summit meeting on global warming convened by the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, in New York?
SundayReview | The New York Times Editorial – A Group Shout on Climate Change.
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD – Sunday September 27, 2014 – That is one week since the Sunday September 22, 2014 PEOPLE’s CLIMATE MARCH and the September 23, 2014 one day – UNSG Ban Ki-moon Climate-topics UN display.
The marchers and mayors, the ministers and presidents, have come and gone. So what is the verdict on Climate Week, the summit meeting on global warming convened by the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, in New York?
The meeting was not intended to reach a global agreement or to extract tangible commitments from individual nations to reduce the greenhouse gases that are changing the world’s ecosystems and could well spin out of control. Its purpose was to build momentum for a new global deal to be completed in December 2015, in Paris.
In that respect …… it clearly moved the ball forward, not so much in the official speeches but on the streets and in the meeting rooms where corporate leaders, investors, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and state and local officials pressed the case for stronger action.
It was important to put climate change back on the radar screen of world leaders, whose last effort to strike a deal, in Copenhagen five years ago, ended in acrimonious disaster. President Obama, for one, was as eloquent as he has ever been on the subject: “For all the immediate challenges that we gather to address this week — terrorism, instability, inequality, disease — there’s one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.”
But most of the positive energy at this gathering came from people closer to the ground, like the 300,000 activists who marched last Sunday. They included mayors like New York’s Michael Bloomberg and his successor, Bill de Blasio, who both spoke of the critical role that cities can play in reducing emissions. They included governors like California’s Jerry Brown, who is justly proud of his state’s pathbreaking efforts to control automobile and power plant pollution. And they included institutions like Bank of America, which said it would invest in renewable energy, and companies like Kellogg and Nestle, which pledged to help stem the destruction of tropical forests by changing the way they buy commodities like soybeans and palm oil.
Underlying all these declarations was a palpable conviction that tackling climate change could be an opportunity and not a burden, that the way to approach the task of harnessing greenhouse gas emissions was not to ask how much it would cost but how much nations stood to gain by investing in new technologies and energy efficiency.
This burst of activity comes at a crucial time. A tracking initiative called the Global Carbon Project recently reported that greenhouse gas emissions jumped 2.3 percent in 2013, mainly because of big increases in China and India. This means it is becoming increasingly difficult to limit global warming to an upper boundary of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (the long touted 2 degrees Celsius limit) above pre-industrial levels. Beyond that point, scientists say, a world already suffering from disappearing glaciers, rising seas and persistent droughts could face even more alarming consequences.
Avoiding such a fate is going to require a revolution in the way the world produces and consumes energy, which clearly has to involve national governments, no matter how much commitment there is on the streets and in the boardrooms. The odds are long that a legally binding treaty will emerge from Paris. Congress is unlikely to ratify one anyway. The smart money now is on a softer agreement that brings all the big polluters on board with national emissions caps, and there are reasons for hope that this can be done.
Mr. Obama is in a much stronger leadership position than he was at Copenhagen, having engineered a huge increase in automobile fuel efficiency and proposed rules that will greatly reduce the United States’ reliance on dirty coal. The Chinese, in part because their own air is so dirty, have been investing heavily in alternative energy sources like wind and solar, and they are giving serious consideration to a national cap on coal consumption. The cooperation of these two countries could by itself create the conditions for a breakthrough agreement. But what might really do the trick — if Climate Week is any guide — is the emergence of a growing bottom-up movement for change.
Copenhagen was the COP 15 (Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – COP9 of UNFCCC – and those who follow our website will realize that we stopped counting after Copenhagen even though this year’s end of the year’s meeting will be already the 20th meeting – or COP20 of the UNFCCC – and it will be held in Lima, Peru. We have no intention of opening a new page for this meeting either – but we are optimistic nevertheless that we will be in much better shape when we go to COP21 of the UNFCCC in Paris – December 2015.
With the 70th celebration of the UN and the need to do something to mark this date – we believe that a more responsive Climate Change reduction path will be fleshed out by that time.
The People’s March of last Sunday will then be remembered as the People’s expression that they demand action from those that sit at UN’s New York Headquarters in what they see as seats of the Global management. Also, please note the fact that even the UN has recognized by now that the Assembly of Governments will not reach the needed consensus to create true action – it will be rather the involvement of Civil Society, and business – led by scientists, economic and social developers and plain people that care for their environment – ethical and mass leaders from he line – that will do it.
NO! it is not as simple as that – it is our own evaluation of what we heard from the mouth of Heads of State.
For unclear reasons they like the number 3 as in the old shaky “TRIPOD” idea of Sustainable Development that was supposed to hold the planet on legs of “Social, Economic, and Environment nature – when they left out Good Governance from the structure.
Now we heard from the President of Niger about his three Ds – DEFENSE, DEMOCRACY and DEVELOPMENT, but then the Prime Minister of the Netherlands spoke of DEFENSE, DEVELOPMENT and DIPLOMACY.
We decided that there cannot be a trade-off between Democracy as in GOOD GOVERNANCE and Diplomacy as a way to avoid conflict – granted that there is a 2014 agreement that the post-2015 agenda is about SECURITY from terrorism and DEVELOPMENT for the poorer Nations.
I SUGGEST HEREWITH THUS the FULL SPECTER OF THE NEEDED Ds: DEFENSE, DEMOCRACY, DEVELOPMENT, and DIPLOMACY – and would like to see the 4Ds adopted by the Development-Poor, by the Oil-rich, and by the old-Democracy States of the North – all of them fueled by Renewable Energy based steam.
Sally Kohn: The U.S. was quick to accept that ISIS could pose a potential threat.
She says this weekend’s climate march in New York highlights a known threat.
Studies show the U.S. is already feeling the harmful effects of higher temperatures, she says.
Kohn: Democrats and Republicans differ on their degree of concern.
(CNN) — There is an imminent threat facing the people, economy and territory of the United States of America.
A report by the Center for Naval Analyses Military Advisory Board calls it a threat to national security and a broader “catalyst for conflict,” domestically and worldwide.
The admiral in charge of U.S. forces in the Pacific says it poses the biggest long-term security threat to the region. A comprehensive study, with 16 terabytes of data, documents how this threat will affect every single county in the United States — costing coastal cities billions and decimating crops all across the Midwest.
Notably, the Department of Defense’s 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, published in March 2014, doesn’t even mention ISIS. But it frequently mentions this other looming threat — climate change.
As thousands of people are expected to join the People’s Climate March this Sunday, September 21, in New York City — calling on world leaders and businesses to take serous and urgent steps to reduce global warming — the threat that climate change poses to the United States is both direct and undeniable.
The rise in mega-storms like Superstorm Sandy is already hurting coastal towns and our economy, while the rise in temperatures is causing droughts in the Great Plains and Southwest. Scientists have shown these effects will only increase.
Rubin & Paulson on climate change report
Meanwhile, though American intelligence agencies continue to emphasize that they have not detected any imminent threat nor specific planning by ISIS to attack US soil, we are nonetheless marshaling our full political will and military muscle to “denigrate and destroy” this enemy.
Why aren’t we attacking climate change?
Donald Rumsfeld, secretary of Defense under President George W. Bush, famously tried to distinguish between “known knowns” and “known unknowns.” Well, the threat of climate change is a “known known” but we have hesitated to attack climate change with all the robust power and focus of our nation while we have quite quickly and decisively mobilized against ISIS, the actual threat of which is clearly a “known unknown” at best.
Why? Why are mobilizing our national will, treasure and muscle to so emphatically fight ISIS while generally wringing our hands about climate change? It appears the answer is simple: Republicans. As far as Democrats are concerned, while 65% see ISIS as a major threat to the United States, 68% believe climate change is also a “major threat.”
This is in stark contrast to Republicans, 78% of whom see ISIS as a threat but only 25% of whom feel the same way about climate change. The 43-point difference between Democratic and Republican views on climate change is the widest division between attitudes over any of the threats asked about in that poll, as the National Journal pointed out.
Republican political operatives and special interests have succeeded in making climate change taboo for their own base, instead breeding a skepticism that disregards basic facts and science.
In 2006, 59% of Republicans said they “see solid evidence of global warming.” That was at a time when Sen. John McCain, who would go on to be the Republican nominee for president, was a leading champion for “cap and trade” legislation to curb greenhouse gas emissions. But by 2009, only 35% of Republicans believed in solid evidence of global warming. Even though half of Republicans said in a poll last year that that climate change is a reality, the implications of that skepticism remain.
Most importantly, the belief that human activity is the main cause of global warming has increased among Democrats (from 57% in 2006 to 66% in 2013) but decreased among Republicans (from 31% in 2006 to 24% in 2013).
And if you don’t think human activity caused a problem, you likely don’t think human activity or policy or much anything else can solve it. Fully 7 out of 10 Tea Party supporters believe there is “no solid evidence” that the earth is warming. As we’ve seen across issues, this fringe but vocal minority has a disproportionate pull on politics.
Although President Obama is using his executive powers to take steps to address the threat of climate change, it’s no wonder we now have even Democratic candidates hedging their stances on the environment.
Perhaps the political reticence speaks to the fact that while ISIS offers a clear and distant enemy to demonize, in the case of climate change the problem is largely us and our lifestyle — or at the very least, the problem is our oil companies and other corporations no politician is eager to blame, especially not Republicans. Or maybe the objection stems from a sense that fixing climate change is just too expensive, even though that’s not true.
In fact a recent study found that addressing climate change will actually lead to economic growth, therefore in a practical sense not cost a dime. And either way, many Republicans didn’t balk at the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which could top $6 trillion not including what we’re now spending to fight ISIS.
So maybe it’s just a matter of political alignment. If we could bomb our way out of climate change, and thus use it as a rationale for bloating the already-bloated military budget, Republican voters and political leaders might then lead the call to action.
Let’s hope the hesitance certainly isn’t that we have to wait for the climate crisis to wreak even greater havoc all around us before we act.
Unlike ISIS, where the possibility of a future threat was enough to justify action, we absolutely know that climate change will strike America — and that, unaddressed, the severity of that threat will only grow. It’s a crisis we absolutely can solve –but first we have to acknowledge there is a crisis and act accordingly.
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Our addition – based on the section on WWII of the new documentary series on the Roosevelt family – is that the slow entree of the US to WWII was caused by the reluctance of Republicans in Congress to see that the US is part of the World at large and that it is US business to dismember the Nazi and Japanese war machines that constitute a direct danger also to the US. This beyond economic interests that were obvious. A war industry provides jobs to the unemployed and that would have helped racial integration and higher income for the poor – something that was anathema to the white Republicans who were the only beneficiaries from the slow process of coming out of the Great Depression. Our point is thus that today’s Republicans are not very different from those of the start of the 1940s.
World’s leading institutional investors managing $24 trillion call for carbon pricing.
Blackrock, CalPERS, PensionDanmark, Deutsche AWM, South African GEPF, Australian CFSGAM, Cathay Financial Holdings
among 340 investors urging heads of state to take strong action on climate change
NEW YORK CITY, 18 September 2014 – Days before UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon convenes the Climate Summit at the United Nations to spur climate action and facilitate a global climate agreement in 2015, more than 340 global institutional investors representing over $24 trillion in assets have called on government leaders to provide stable, reliable and economically meaningful carbon pricing that helps redirect investment commensurate with the scale of the climate change challenge, as well as develop plans to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels.
“Gaps, weaknesses and delays in climate change and clean energy policies will increase the risks to our investments as a result of the physical impacts of climate change, and will increase the likelihood that more radical policy measures will be required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said the statement – the largest of its kind by global investors on climate change. “Stronger political leadership and more ambitious policies are needed in order for us to scale up our investments.”
According to the International Energy Agency, the world must invest at least an additional $1 trillion per year – a Clean Trillion – into clean energy by 2050 if we have any hope of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius and avoiding the worst impacts of climate change on our environment, health and the global economy. Yet global investment in clean energy was just $254 billion in 2013.
The statement recognizes the role investors play in financing clean energy, outlines the specific steps they are committing to take, and calls on policymakers to take action that supports, rather than limits, investments in clean energy and climate solutions. It was coordinated by the four investor groups on climate change – Ceres’ Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR) in the United States, the European Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC), the Investors Group on Climate Change (IGCC) in Australia and New Zealand, and the Asia Investor Group on Climate Change (AIGCC) – with the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) and Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI).
“The perception prevails that we need to choose between economic well-being or climate stability. The truth is that we need both. What is needed is an unprecedented re-channelling of investment from today´s economy into the low-carbon economy of tomorrow. Investors are owners of large segments of the global economy as well as custodians of citizens’ savings around the world. Having such a critical mass of them demand a transition to the low-carbon and green economy is exactly the signal Governments need in order to move to ambitious action quickly,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme.
“It is significant that the largest institutional investors from around the world are in agreement that unmitigated climate change puts their investments at risk,” said Mindy Lubber, director of INCR and president of the U.S.-based nonprofit sustainability advocacy group, Ceres. “The financial community has a message for heads of state gathering at the United Nations next week: we can’t afford to wait any longer for a climate deal.”
Stephanie Pfeifer, Chief Executive of IIGCC said: “The international investor community has today made it clear that the status quo on climate policy is not acceptable. Investors are taking action on climate change, from direct investment in renewables to company engagement and reducing exposure to carbon risk. But to invest in low carbon energy at the scale we need requires stronger policies. At the UN climate summit next week, policymakers can ensure pockets of climate leadership turn into mainstream actions.”
“Asia presents perhaps the greatest challenges and most significant opportunities in the efforts to transition towards a green economy,” said Alexandra Tracy, Chairman of the Association for Sustainable and Responsible Investment in Asia and Senior Advisor to AIGCC. “Policymakers need to balance difficult trade-offs between a development agenda and environmental concerns, but we see promising moves from governments in the region, such as the measures in China’s most recent Five Year Plan.”
Alongside the statement, the investor groups have published a report detailing examples of action being taken by investors that support a low carbon, climate resilient economy. While ambitious policy is required in order for low carbon investments to be brought to scale, these examples demonstrate that investors are already acting on climate change in a variety of ways. These activities include direct low carbon investments, the creation of low carbon funds, company engagement, and reducing exposure to fossil fuel and carbon intensive companies.
“Stronger carbon and climate frameworks are needed to catalyze institutional investment,” said Fiona Reynolds, managing director of PRI. “The time is now for national governments to overcome the political obstacles that prevent global carbon pricing and hinder long term capital flows into climate mitigation and adaption.”
Examples in the report from both developed and developing countries include:
· Danish pension fund PKA looking to increase its new and existing offshore wind farm investments to €1.5 billion by the end of 2015.
· U.S. insurer and pension fund provider TIAA-CREFF reduces the carbon footprint of its real estate portfolio by 17 percent, cutting 58,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
·Swedish pension fund AP4 is committed to decarbonizing its entire $20 billion listed equities portfolio.
·China Utility-Based Energy Efficiency Finance Program provides loans worth $790 million, financing 226 projects and reducing emissions by 19 million metric tons of carbon.
·ASN Bank in the Netherlands to become fully carbon-neutral by 2030.
·Zurich Insurance Group to invest up to $2 billion in green bonds, one of many commitments this year that has resulted in 20-fold growth in green bond market since 2012.
·HSBC Armenia partners with IFC to finance nine small-medium size enterprise energy efficiency projects in Armenia, totaling approximately $25 million and reducing carbon emissions by more than 6,600 tons per year.
·Global bank ING has in 7 years reduced its energy project loan allocation to coal power from 63 to 13% and increased its allocation to renewable energies from 5 to 39 percent.
In addition, the investor groups have launched a public online database of select low carbon investments made by asset owners such as pension funds and insurance companies. The Low Carbon Investment Registry identifies how institutional investors are directing capital towards low carbon assets. Asset owners around the world will be encouraged to add examples to the Registry leading up to the climate negotiations in Paris.
“The Low Carbon Investment Registry shows how investors are already supporting the transition to a low carbon economy by investing in a variety of different ways – directly into renewable energy projects, into clean energy funds, through green bonds and through the establishment of public-private-partnerships,” said Nathan Fabian, Chief Executive of IGCC. “It gives policymakers a better understanding of how private capital is currently flowing into low carbon investments.”
Several signatories to the Global Investor Statement on Climate Change are expected to announce significant new individual commitments related to climate risk and low carbon investment at the UN Summit on Climate Change on September 23. For more information, contact pickering at ceres.org and NWilliams at IIGCC.org.
Visit www.ceres.org to download a recording of today’s press briefing on the statement, featuring Donald MacDonald, BT Pension Scheme trustee director and Chairman of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (Europe); Frank Pegan, CEO Catholic Super and Chair, Investor Group on Climate Change (Australia); David Pitt-Watson, Chair, UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI); Strategic Advisor, Inflection Point Capital; Assaad Razzouk, Group Chief Executive of Sindicatum Sustainable Resources, Singapore; Asia Investor Group on Climate Change; Anne Stausboll, CEO, California Public Employees’ Retirement System and member of Ceres’ Investor Network on Climate Risk (North America); and Faith Ward, Chief Responsible Investment and Risk Officer, Environment Agency Pension Fund.
About the Asia Investor Group on Climate Change
The Asia Investor Group on Climate Change (AIGCC) is an initiative set up by the Association for Sustainable and Responsible Investment in Asia (ASrIA) to create awareness among Asia’s asset owners and financial institutions about the risks and opportunities associated with climate change and low carbon investing. AIGCC provides capacity for investors to share best practice and to collaborate on investment activity, credit analysis, risk management, engagement and policy. With a strong international profile and significant network, including pension, sovereign wealth funds insurance companies and fund managers, AIGCC represents the Asian voice in the evolving global discussions on climate change and the transition to a greener economy. aigcc.asria.org/.
About Ceres’ Investor Network on Climate Risk (United States)
The Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR) is a North America-focused network of institutional investors dedicated to addressing the financial risks and investment opportunities posed by climate change and other sustainability challenges. INCR currently has more than 110 members representing over $13 trillion in assets. INCR is a project of Ceres, a nonprofit advocate for sustainability leadership that mobilizes investors, companies and public interest groups to accelerate and expand the adoption of sustainable business practices and solutions to build a healthy global economy. Visit www.ceres.org.
About Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (Europe)
The Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) is a forum for collaboration on climate change for investors. IIGCC’s network includes over 90 members, with some of the largest pension funds and asset managers in Europe, representing €7.5trillion in assets. IIGCC’s mission is to provide investors a common voice to encourage public policies, investment practices and corporate behaviour which address long-term risks and opportunities associated with climate change. Visit www.iigcc.org.
About Investors Group on Climate Change –(Australia/New Zealand)
IGCC is a collaboration of 65 Australian and New Zealand institutional investors and advisors, managing approximately $1 trillion and focusing on the impact that climate change has on the financial value of investments. The IGCC aims to encourage government policies and investment practices that address the risks and opportunities of climate change, for the ultimate benefit of superannuants and unit holders. Visitwww.igcc.org.au.
The United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) Initiative is an international network of investors working together to put the six Principles for Responsible Investment into practice. Its goal is to understand the implications of Environmental, Social and Governance issues (ESG) for investors and support signatories to incorporate these issues into their investment decision making and ownership practices. In implementing the Principles, signatories contribute to the development of a more sustainable global financial system. Visit www.unpri.org.
About UNEP FI
UNEP FI is a global partnership between UNEP and the financial sector. Over 230 institutions, including banks, insurers and fund managers, work with UNEP to understand the impacts of environmental and social considerations on financial performance. Through its Climate Change Advisory Group (CCAG), UNEP FI aims to understand the roles, potentials and needs of the finance sector in addressing climate change, and to advance the integration of climate change factors – both risks and opportunities – into financial decision-making. Visitwww.unepfi.org. For more information, contact: UNEP News Desk,Tel; +254 (20)762 5022; Email; unepnewsdesk at unep.org
We learned that the timing of the March – Sunday, September 21, 2014, has more to do with the release last night (September 16th, 2014) at the Ethical Culture Society New York Headquarters at Central Park West and 64th Street, then with the forthcoming September 23rd UN event on Climate Change.
The movie is -”THE FUTURE OF ENERGY: Lateral Power to The People” – which is in effect a logic – non-UN inspired – sequel to Franny Armstrong’s “THE AGE OF STUPID” that was released in 2009 prior to the Copenhagen COP 15 of the UNFCCC (The UN Convention on Climate Change). That movie belonged still to the time people believed in multilateralism as a way to answer the growing threat to humanity from our super-dependence on fossil-carbon fuels. Today the “People” are sophisticated enough to realize that governments via multilateralism do not stand a chance to an agreement that gives birth to a solution to the on-going changes in the global environment that lead to global warming and climate change. The PEOPLE in their own actions – in their communities – are our only hope. This is now the wave of the future – not the UN.
The UN was good to make it crystal clear that there is a problem that needs a solution – but the UN is impotent when it comes to provide the solution. This belongs now to the PEOPLE – the ethical guardians of their own future and the future of the generations to come.
This was made clear to me as I asked the panel that followed the inaugural viewing of the movie “What they expect of the upcoming event at the UN?” The answer from the Producer/Writer – Mr. Maximilian DeArmon – was very short and clear. What will save us are the People in their LOCALITIES and the fact that the non-fossil-carbon solutions to energy needs are already economical and their introduction will make them cheaper, while the continuing use of fossil-fuels makes those trouble-causing fuels more expensive. The logic is here and the People recognize what that means to politics, the economy, and their daily lives.
——————————————————————————– The March – 11:30 am, Sunday, September 21st Assembly Location: Central Park West, between 65th and 86thstreets. NOTE – Some streets will be closed. Enter on 65th, 72nd, 77th, 81st, or 86th street.
March Route: The march will begin at 11:30 am. Assembly starts from 9:00 a.m.
March down Central Park West and go east on 59th Street. Turn onto 6th Ave. and go south to 42nd Street. Turn right onto 42nd Street and go west to 11th Ave. Turn left on 11th Ave. and go south to 34th Street End Location: 11th Ave. in the streets between 34th Street and 38thStreet.
350NYC at the People’s Climate March! Meet us on Central Park West between 71st and 72nd by 10am on Sunday Sept 21st. We’ll be marching in the green “Solutions” section of the march. T
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At the UN highlights were during the years of Secretary-General Kofi Annan and we want to mention two of his innovations:
(a) he chaperoned the introduction to the UN of the Principle of THE RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT (R2P) which, as he understood it – was the responsibility of governments to protect their citizens from the wrath of the government itself. Clearly, this was not the obviously understood – the responsibility of a government to protect their citizens from outside attacks. Let us say that this was the first innovation of the UN Charter since the Declaration of Human Rights championed by Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt. We like to view R2P also as a call to governments regarding their responsibility to protect the citizens from the effects of Climate Change and to act in order to avoid this subservience to fossil fuels and corporate greed.
(b) he was responsible for the creation of the United Nations Global Compact.
The United Nations Global Compact is a UN initiative to encourage businesses worldwide to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies, and to report on their implementation. The UN Global Compact is a principle-based framework for businesses, stating ten principles in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption. Under the Global Compact, companies are brought together with UN agencies, labour groups and civil society. Cities or localities can join the Global Compact through the Cities Programme.
The UN Global Compact is the world’s largest corporate citizenship initiative with two objectives: “Mainstream the ten principles in business activities around the world” and “Catalyse actions in support of broader UN goals, such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).” We like to see here an opening regarding the effects of Climate Change and the need that corporations are bound to help avoid Global Warming and Climate Change.
Under UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Climate Change continued to get a lot of attention, but we did not see yet the needed push to hold governments and corporations responsible for acting along the lines that became available under his predecessor’s leadership. It seems that telling Dr. Assad that he is not allowed to gas his citizens is much easier then telling China not to poison Beijing’s air by building more coal-fired power plants.
Since 2008, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has convened the UN Private Sector Forum during the opening session of the General Assembly in order to bring the voice of the private sector to inter-governmental debates on key topics.
This year, the UN Private Sector Forum will be an integral part of the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit. The Climate Summit will serve as a public platform for leaders at the highest level – all Member States, business, finance, civil society and local leaders – to:
Catalyze ambitious action on the ground to reduce emissions and strengthen climate resilience
Mobilize political will for an ambitious global legal agreement by 2015 that limits the world to a less than 2-degree Celsius rise in global temperature.
Convened by the UN Global Compact in close cooperation with the World Bank Group, and with the support of UN partners, the Private Sector Forum will provide a unique platform for Governments and business to demonstrate their leadership on climate change.
The theme of this year’s luncheon segment of the Forum will be carbon pricing, focusing on actions that the public and private sectors can take to achieve an equitable and fair valuation of carbon through long-term strategies, investments and policies.
Comprising two programme segments to showcase and catalyse leadership on climate change, the Private Sector Forum seeks to:
Provide a platform for business and investors to demonstrate the contribution that they can make towards reducing global emissions and strengthening resilience; and
Inspire new public policy measures, commitments to action, and public-private partnerships to steer global and local climate action
Put a Price on Carbon:
Carbon pricing is a critical tool to address climate change, and momentum is building to put in place carbon pricing schemes. Nearly 40 countries and more than 20 cities, states and provinces use carbon pricing mechanisms such as emissions trading systems and carbon taxes or are preparing to implement them. The private sector has been increasingly outspoken in its support for consistent carbon pricing.
Many companies already operate in countries with carbon pricing and use an internal carbon price in their planning and investments, however more leadership is needed if we are to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.
Two separate initiatives representing a progression of commitments to support carbon pricing will be presented during the Private Sector Forum on 23 September 2014. To learn more, please read this letter from the UN Global Compact and the World Bank Group.
But the working part of the September 23rd meetings are slim. They amount to:
11:40 Welcoming Remarks -Mr. Georg Kell,
Executive Director, United Nations Global Compact
11:50 Introduction to the Roundtable Discussion by the Master of Ceremonies Ms. Christiana Figueres,
Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
11:50 – 12:20 Roundtable Discussion
Participants will be seated at tables of ten and will discuss the following question:
What effective measures can private and public sectors take to significantly advance corporate
action on climate change and help limit global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius?
12:20 – 12:50 Report back and Announcements: Commitments to Action
The Master of Ceremonies calls on leaders from business and civil society to report back on the roundtable
discussions and to announce a commitment to action
Mr. Feike Sijbesma, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman, Royal DSM
Mr. Ajit Gulabchand, Chairman and Managing Director, Hindustan Construction Company, India
Mr. Kerry Adler, President and Chief Executive Officer, SkyPower, Canada
Mr. Jose Lopez, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Nestle, Switzerland
Mr. Morten Albaek, Group Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Vestas, Denmark
Mr. Jerry Lynch, Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer, General Mills, USA
Mr. Peter Bakker, Chief Executive Officer, The World Business Council for Sustainable Development
12:50 – 12:55 Closing Remarks – Mr. Adolfo Heeren, Chief Executive Officer, Cálidda, Peru
12:55 – 13:00
Wrap up by the Master of Ceremonies Participants move to their seats in the Delegates Dining Room
The film is a drama-documentary-animation hybrid which stars Pete Postlethwaite as a man living alone in the devastated world of 2055, watching archive footage from the mid-to-late 2000s and asking “Why didn’t we stop climate change when we had the chance?”
On Golan, After Ladsous’ Peacekeepers’ Surrender, UNSG Ban Ki-moon Tells ICP For Safety.
By Matthew Russell Lee reporting for Inner City Press and FUNCA.
UNITED NATIONS, September 16 — With UN Peacekeepers in the Golan Heights having first surrendered to the Al Nusra Front, then left weapons, vehicles and uniforms for them, Inner City Press on September 16 asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon:
Inner City Press: Matthew Lee, Inner City Press. On behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, thanks for taking questions and I hope in the next two weeks we have as much access as possible.
I want to ask about the Golan Heights. There is a lot of controversy about what has taken place there, with apparently an order to surrender and Al-Nusra is now running around with UN trucks and vehicles. And it was said at the stakeout this morning that the equipment was given over and basically that the mission is no longer completing what its mission is, which is to monitor both sides of the ceasefire line.
So I wonder what are you going to do in terms of getting to the bottom of if a surrender was ordered, who ordered the surrender and what can you say to the troop contributing countries who say that this is kind of a disarray and people need to know what the role of peacekeepers is, stand and fight or surrender and run?
SG Ban: For that issue I understand that Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, has explained to you in detail what had happened. And, as you know, the security situation was very, very urgent and dangerous at that time. Therefore, you should also appreciate the peacekeepers were and still are working on the very difficult and dangerous situation. That is why, as was briefed by the spokesperson yesterday, we had to relocate this UNDOF [United Nations Disengagement Observer Force] peacekeepers to a safer and more secure place. This is a part of and continuing efforts to make sure that our peacekeepers and UN staff’s security and safety are ensured.
While the change to put the question to Ban was appreciated, things are arranged for DPKO chief Herve Ladsous to avoid the tough questions, just as he has announced he will not respond to questions of media whose questions he doesn’t like.Video here and here and here.
While respecting safety of peacekeepers, how does this relate to the Office for Internal Oversight Services’ critique of Ladsous’ DPKO has not protecting civilians? If they cannot protect themselves, how can they protect civilians?
Inner City Press: the Philippines military has complained that the military force commander of UNDOF asked or ordered the Filipino peacekeepers to lay down their weapons in some sort of in relation to the Fijians and they refused to do so and has asked, as they say, for an investigation of the commander.
Could you explain under what circumstances the UN central peacekeeping or force commander would ask peacekeepers to lay down their weapons in the face of a hostile group and why?
Spokesman Dujarric: Again, as the situation is ongoing and the situation in the Filipinos and Fijians are obviously linked, I’m not getting into the detail of it. What I will say is that we will respond to any formal request made by Member State. Its normal procedure of review of action being taken and after review action be taken by mission once the situation has concluded. So, I think we have to get through this is extremely volatile situation. The safety of all our peacekeepers here is foremost on our mind. It’s at risk. We have seen the kind of area they are operating on and I think we need to let this — we need to let all of this conclude and then we can address it more formally.
Inner City Press: for troop-contributing countries, are you aware of any other case in which peacekeeping has asked peacekeepers to essentially surrender and are they supposed to obey those orders? Usually they complain the other way and they are ordered to fight and they won’t fight. Are you aware of any other case when they are ordered to surrender?
Spokesman Dujarric: And I think every situation is different, and as I said what is foremost on our mind is the safety of our soldiers.
Back on September 3, Inner City Press asked about the black-flagged UN vehicles, and about public and widely reported comments by Ireland’s minister of defense that no more Irish troops will be send to the UNDOF mission until it is reviewed.
Dujarric said no formal communication has been received from the Irish government.
Earlier on September 3 the first, set-aside UNCA soft ball question, unpressed, was about Filipino Colonel Ezra James Enriquez. Ladsous said he has “tendered his resignation” but that “is a matter for them.” For whom? It was then reported that Ezra James Enriquez has “left his post.”
Amre Moussa, the former Arab League head from Egypt, is calling for a Middle Eastern equivalent of the 1814 Congress of Vienna, in which Europe’s great powers established a new order to prevent wars between empires following the defeat of Napoleon. Admittedly, Moussa quickly backtracked to say the plan couldn’t initially include Iran, Turkey or Israel, making it really just another Arab League meeting. Still, I think he’s onto something.
For years, the people of the Middle East have complained that the U.S. and Europe treat it as a kind of colonial playground, while the West has moaned the region must take more responsibility to regulate and provide security for itself. This week, reports of United Arab Emirates airstrikes in Libya, launched from airstrips in Egypt, suggest that is beginning to happen — but in precisely the wrong way. The airstrikes pit the more secular client of one Persian Gulf state, UAE, against Islamists supported by another, Qatar.
This is a recipe for a long and bloody civil war in Libya, at a time when the Middle East is imploding and the U.S. is no longer willing or able to police it alone. Divisions among the Sunni states and an expanding proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia have already resulted in a vortex of human suffering and instability in Syria that has spawned the Islamic State.
So Moussa’s idea of a congress “emanating from the Middle East” itself, rather than from the U.S. or Europe, and focused on how to ensure stability in the region makes sense. As a model, the Congress of Vienna has an attractive echo for the Middle East’s monarchies and dictators, as it was designed mainly by conservative autocrats as they sought ways to contain the subversive republican fervor unleashed by the French revolution. Old regime leaders in the Middle East see the Arab Spring in much the same light.
“We are talking about a major change in the Middle East,” Moussa said at a conference I’m attending this week in Salzburg, Austria, on lessons to be drawn from the Vienna Congress and the outbreak of World War I, hosted by the International Peace Institute and the Salzburg Global Seminar. “We have to discuss this like grownups: What are we going to do when this wave of change comes to its end?”
The Congress of Vienna was also used to redraw the map of Europe after the Napoleonic wars, and then fix borders and establish a mechanism to agree on changes. In this light, Moussa was adamant that proposals to break up Iraq along sectarian lines would be infectious and disastrous for the region. A deal in in which the likes of Iran and Saudi Arabia guaranteed the non-violation of borders is appealing.
Of course, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical. For one thing, Iran and Saudi Arabia are involved in what they see as a zero-sum contest for power, and a meaningful agreement between them seems fantastical: The empires of Europe were driven to reconciliation only after nearly 20 years of defeats forced them to learn the value of alliance. Indeed, while Saudi Arabia’s Prince Turki al-Faisal, also in Salzburg, supported Moussa’s idea, his focus was on how to create a united Arab front toward Iran — a poor starting point if the goal is to reconcile Iranian and Saudi interests
So long as the focus is on getting the Arab house in order, this is unlikely to get anywhere. A more serious attempt would focus not on Arab identity but on who needs to be at the table so that any deal that is reached would be meaningful. At a minimum, that means Iran, Israel and Turkey must be present. Inviting the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to facilitate and hold the ring would also be smart. It’s crazy, and it’s worth a try.
UNEP Targets Innovative Learning to Reduce Disaster Risk Worldwide.
More than 1,000 risk and disaster experts, practitioners and government officials from over 100 countries convene in Davos this week to tackle the growing challenge of disaster risk.
DAVOS, Switzerland, 26 August 2014 – In the past decade, natural disasters have cost over 1.2 million lives and economic losses have continued to skyrocket. Projections indicate that damages from disasters will climb up to US$400 billion per year and with climate change expected to worsen these impacts, identifying innovative solutions and responses has become an urgent priority.
This week at the 5th Annual International Disaster Risk Conference (IDRC), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) unveiled its latest effort to build resilience to this global challenge. UNEP is launching the first-ever Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) focusing on how to minimize disaster risk through “natural” or ecosystem-based solutions.
Ecosystems such as forests, wetlands and reefs often provide valuable protection against natural hazards like avalanches and flooding. They also supply vital services such as food, fuel and shelter following a disaster event. Yet limited awareness of the services offered by ecosystems and false perceptions on their effectiveness as a tool for disaster risk reduction is preventing concrete action.
“In order to bring disaster losses under control, we need more skills, scale and speed in our disaster risk reduction efforts. This MOOC improves access at a global scale by enabling people to learn directly from experts and practitioners how to apply ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction and adaptation in their own communities,” said Dr. Muralee Thummarukudy, Senior Manager for Disaster Risk Reduction at UNEP.
This MOOC will also broaden awareness on the different tools available beyond concrete or engineered solutions by demonstrating how climate change, disasters and the environment are linked. It exposes participants to a range of tools for eco-disaster risk reduction and adaptation. With over 20 hours of video lectures, guest lectures from world leaders and real-life case studies, the MOOC targets policy-makers and decision-makers, practitioners, experts and the wider public.
Today, UNEP and the Partnership for Environment and Disaster Risk Reduction (PEDRR) are also hosting an interactive panel discussion on “Bridging disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation through ecosystems management.” The panel aims to demonstrate through field projects how ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction and adaptation are building resilience in communities worldwide.
The MOOC is the result of a collaboration between UNEP and the Centre for Natural Resources and Development, a consortium of 11 universities from around the world that is coordinated by the Cologne University of Applied Sciences (CUAS), Germany.
Further details on UNEP’s disaster risk reduction programme are available at www.unep.org/disastersandconflicts/Introduction/DisasterRiskReduction/tabid/104159/Default.aspx
The Partnership for Environment and Disaster Risk Reduction (PEDRR) is a global alliance of UN agencies, NGOs and specialist institutes; see www.pedrr.org
The International Disaster Risk Conference is a major biennial forum on disaster risk; see www.idrc.info
President Barak Obama has rightfully condemned the ISIS beheading of American James Foley in the strongest terms. This is what he said:
“There has to be a common effort to extract this cancer so it does not spread. There has to be a clear rejection of the kind of a nihilistic ideologies. One thing we can all agree on is group like (ISIS) has no place in the 21st century. Friends and allies around the world, we share a common security a set of values opposite of what we saw yesterday. We will continue to confront this hateful terrorism and replace it with a sense of hope and stability.”
At the same time that President Obama has called for an all-out war against the “cancer” of ISIS, he has regarded Hamas as having an easily curable disease, urging Israel to accept that terrorist group, whose charter calls for Israel’s destruction, as part of a Palestinian unity government. I cannot imagine him urging Iraq, or any other Arab country, to accept ISIS as part of a unity government.
Former President Jimmy Carter and Bishop Desmond Tutu have gone even further, urging the international community to recognize the legitimacy of Hamas as a political party and to grant it diplomatic recognition. It is hard to imagine them demanding that the same legitimate status be accorded ISIS.
Why then the double standard regarding ISIS and Hamas? Is it because ISIS is less brutal and violent than Hamas? It’s hard to make that case. Hamas has probably killed more civilians—through its suicide bombs, its murder of Palestinian Authority members, its rocket attacks and its terror tunnels—than ISIS has done. If not for Israel’s Iron Dome and the Israeli Defense Forces, Hamas would have killed even more innocent civilians. Indeed its charter calls for the killing of all Jews anywhere in the world, regardless of where they live or which “rock” they are hiding behind. If Hamas had its way, it would kill as least as many people as ISIS would.
Is it the manner by which ISIS kills? Beheading is of course a visibly grotesque means of killing, but dead is dead and murder is murder. And it matters little to the victim’s family whether the death was caused by beheading, by hanging or by a bullet in the back of a head. Indeed most of ISIS’s victims have been shot rather than beheaded, while Hamas terrorists have slaughtered innocent babies in their beds, teenagers on the way home from school, women shopping, Jews praying and students eating pizza.
Is it because ISIS murdered an American? Hamas has murdered numerous Americans and citizens of other countries. They too are indiscriminate in who they kill.
Is it because ISIS has specifically threatened to bring its terrorism to American shores, while Hamas focuses its terrorism in Israel? The Hamas Charter does not limit its murderous intentions to one country. Like ISIS it calls for a worldwide “caliphate,” brought about by violent Jihad.
Everything we rightly fear and despise from ISIS we should fear and despise from Hamas. Just as we would never grant legitimacy to ISIS, we should not grant legitimacy to Hamas—at the very least until it rescinds its charter and renounces violence. Unfortunately that is about as likely as America rescinding its constitution. Violence, anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism are the sine qua non of Hamas’ mission.
Just as ISIS must be defeated militarily and destroyed as a terrorist army, so too must Hamas be responded to militarily and its rockets and tunnels destroyed.
It is widely, and in my view mistakenly, argued by many academics and diplomats that there can never be a military solution to terrorism in general or to the demands of Hamas in particular. This conventional wisdom ignores the lessons of history. Chamberlain thought there could be a diplomatic solution to Hitler’s demands. Churchill disagreed. History proved Churchill correct. Nazi Fascists and Japanese militarists had to be defeated militarily before a diplomatic resolution could be achieved.
So too with ISIS and Hamas. They must first be defeated militarily and only then might they consider accepting reasonable diplomatic and political compromises. Another similarity between ISIS and Hamas is that if these terrorist groups were to lay down their arms, there might be peace, whereas if their enemies were to lay down their arms, there would be genocide.
A wonderful cartoon illustrates this: at one end of the table is Hamas demanding “death to all the Jews!” At the other end is Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu. In the middle sits the mediator, who turns to Netanyahu and asks: “Can’t you at least come half way?”
No democratic nation can accept its own destruction. We cannot compromise—come half way—with terrorists who demand the deaths of all who stand in the way of their demand for a Sunni caliphate, whether these terrorists call themselves ISIS or Hamas. Both are, in the words of President Obama, “cancers” that must be extracted before they spread. Both are equally malignant. Both must be defeated on the battlefield, in the court of public opinion and in the courts of law. There can be no compromise with bigotry, terrorism or the demand for a caliphate. Before Hamas or ISIS can be considered legitimate political partners, they must give up their violent quest for a worldwide Islamic caliphate.
Richard Nixon and Barack Obama are rarely compared. But the way these two presidents have dealt with crises in the Middle East provides instructive contrasts on the nature of leadership.
This summer marks the 40th anniversary of the resignation of President Nixon, a man more associated with skullduggery than leadership. But in October 1973, when his Vice President was resigning in disgrace and the congressional investigation into his own misconduct was moving to its fatal conclusion, Nixon demonstrated how a leader can take command, master events, and shape history.
President Obama has not abandoned Israel, nor has he declared himself neutral in its current struggle against Hamas. But time after time, he has undercut Israel’s position, in an effort to curry favor with a hostile world.
His Secretary of State tried to involve Turkey and Qatar, two implacable foes of Israel, in the cease-fire negotiations, even though their financial support enabled Hamas to amass the missiles and build the tunnels that threaten Israel. After an Israeli shell landed close to a UNRWA school in Rafah, his Administration joined the global anti-Israel chorus. Before any investigation could be conducted, the State Department immediately declared itself “appalled” by Israel’s “disgraceful” act – even though Hamas rockets have been found in UNRWA schools at least three times, and even though the U.S. armed forces conducted similar attacks against schools used by hostile forces in Afghanistan. (The Israeli 4-year old boy killed on Friday was the victim of a missile fired from a site near a UNRWA school.)
Most disturbing, Obama’s White House has recently changed the military-to-military relationship by which American weaponry has been transferred to Israel, to require White House and State Department approval. Now these are U.S. weapons, and it is of course up to the U.S. government to set the protocols for their transfer. But to change the rules so abruptly, while Israel is under daily bombardment, is unprecedented.
Once again, it represented the Obama Administration’s tendency to placate the world, rather than stand by a lonely ally. This emerges from an observation by a “senior Obama Administration official” to the Wall Street Journal:
“We have many, many friends around the world. The United States is their strongest friend,” the official said. “The notion that they are playing the United States, or that they’re manipulating us publicly, completely miscalculates their place in the world.”
In other words, the Administration was telling Israel by these leaked remarks: We have many friends. You do not. Don’t ever forget it.
Sniping at friends to placate their enemies is not leadership. It is not even shrewdness. The United States has won no new friends from undercutting Israel.
To see a different kind of leadership, travel back in time and consider the performance of Richard Nixon in October 1973.
Israel faced a military crisis. Egypt and Syria, backed by nine Arab states and lavishly supplied by the Soviet Union, attacked on Yom Kippur. Israeli forces were thrown back in the Sinai and on the Golan Heights. Defense Minister Moshe Dayan told Prime Minister Golda Meir that Israel faced imminent defeat. The situation was so dire, that the Israeli government considered resorting to a last ditch nuclear option.
In this crisis situation, Richard Nixon ordered a massive airlift of military supplies to Israel. During a 32-day period beginning October 14, jumbo U.S. military aircraft touched down in Israel 567 times, delivering some 22,300 tons of material.
Conducting such an operation was a complicated task. Then, as now, Israel was not popular on the international scene. Fearful of the Arabs’ oil weapon, NATO allies refused to allow U.S. transport planes to refuel in their countries – even while NATO members Turkey and Greece were allowing Soviet supply planes to overfly their territory. Ultimately, the U.S. managed to pressure Portugal to allow landing in the Azores for refueling.
Meanwhile, in Washington, bureaucratic hurdles threatened to delay the airlift. Nixon took charge personally. White House counsel Leonard Garment recalled:
It was Nixon who did it. I was there. As [bureaucratic bickering between the State and Defense departments] was going back and forth, Nixon said, “This is insane….He just ordered Kissinger, Get your [behind] out of here and tell those people to move. “
Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger, concerned by the reaction of the Arabs and Soviets to the airlift, advised sending just three transports. Nixon responded: “We are going to get blamed just as much for three as for 300…Get them in the air, now.”
Nixon worked closely with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on the airlift. When Kissinger gave him a list of the type and quantity of weaponry sought by the Israeli military, Nixon ordered him to double it, then added: “Now get the hell out of here and get the job done.” Informed of a delay caused by disagreements in the Pentagon over which planes to use, Nixon shouted at Kissinger: “[Expletive] it, use every one we have. Tell them to send everything that can fly.”
The airlift helped turn the tide. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat proposed a ceasefire enforced by Soviet and U.S. troops on the ground. The U.S. rejected the proposal. Soviet leader Brezhnev then threatened to send Russian troops to the Middle East unilaterally. Nixon ordered that U.S. military to be put on high alert. Air Force strike units were prepared for attack, and two aircraft carriers were deployed to the Eastern Mediterranean. Brezhnev backed down.
Richard Nixon neither sought nor received any political gain for his decisive leadership. The Watergate investigation intensified, culminating in his resignation ten months later. American Jews, who voted overwhelmingly for Humphrey in 1968 and McGovern in 1972, remained, and remain today, hostile to the man.
But Golda Meir never forgot Nixon’s leadership. For the rest of her life she referred to him as “my president.” She once said, in tones reminiscent of the Passover haggadah: “For generations to come, all will be told of the miracle of the immense planes from the United States bringing in the material that meant life to our people.”
It is doubtful that any Israeli, of any political persuasion, will ever remember Barack Obama as “my president.”
It is also doubtful that friends of the United States in other parts of the globe will remember him that way. When Iranian populists remember Obama, they are likely to remember him as the President who reached out to the regime’s theocratic dictators, but failed to support the courageous demonstrators of the Green Revolution. When the Poles and Czechs remember Obama, they are likely to recall him as the President who reneged on the promise to build a missile defense shield in Europe, to avoid irritating the Russians. When Ukrainians remember Obama, they are likely to recall him as the President who, after the non-irritated Russians annexed the Crimea, responded by airlifting, not weapons, but 300,000 ready-to-eat meals.
The irony of leadership is that it often proves a more effective tool to win over foes than supplication. Obama’s forbearance has won the United States no points from Russia or Iran, or any of our other opponents. It has only disappointed our friends. In contrast, Richard Nixon steadfastly supported Israel during wartime – and was lionized by Egyptians in the aftermath of that war after brokering a ceasefire.
In June 1974, just weeks before his resignation, Nixon visited Egypt and rode in an open railway car from Alexandria to Cairo with President Sadat. An estimated 6 million Egyptians lined the route, cheering him. Sadat saluted Nixon with these words:
Since the 6th of October, and since the change that took place in the American foreign policy, peace is now available in the area. And President Nixon never gave a word and didn’t fulfill it; he has fulfilled every word he gave.
Richard Nixon was a man of many flaws, not least of which was a strong strain of anti-Semitism. But he was also a leader. The current President, driven to make America liked again, may have more charity in his heart, but he has far less spinal fluid in his backbone.
Lawrence J. Siskind is a San Francisco attorney, who blogs on issues of politics, foreign policy, law, and culture, at ToPutItBluntly.com.